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Dad’s Diner a must-go

Jun 4th, 2014 | Category: Food

by Brent Cole

Tucked away in Anacortes is a food truck and diner with some of the best food in Western Washington – so good governor Jay Inslee declared their buttermilk pancakes the best in the state. Dad’s Diner A Go Go (food truck) and Dad’s Diner (restaurant) are the perfect example of what happens when you provide good food and good service in a town with a strong community commitment.

Order up, with co-owner Neil Stuchal. PHOTO BY BRENT COLE

Order up, with co-owner Neil Stuchal. PHOTO BY BRENT COLE

Owners Neil Stuchal and Fletcher McLean met 10 years ago at a friend’s wedding; Neil was the wedding singer, and inspired by their mutual love of food and music, the two hit it off. Their friendship continued to develop as Fletcher, who was in the music industry at the time, helped get a song submitted to a world-wide songwriting contest for Neil. Eventually, it became time for a change for Fletcher, and Neil brought him on at a local restaurant where he worked as a chef. They realized they had something else in common: both wanted to have their own place.

The two started developing an idea for a new restaurant while hanging out in Neil’s garage after shifts, and over the subsequent months they “developed a bible of recipes and ideas,” according to Fletcher. They looked at different locations and ideas, and realized a BBQ truck was the perfect fit,  in part because it was financially doable.

“It’s best to crawl before you walk, walk before you run,” he said.

The two found a used truck in Salem, worked with the city to open it and hit the ground running in late 2011 at 2219 Commercial. Initially, they had a huge menu, but quickly pared it down to include their brisket and pulled pork sandwiches and plates. As they progressed on more stable footing, Neil and Fletcher began grinding their own beef for their burgers and making their own bacon.

As their reputation for great food grew, they began working on a second location – one with seating. In February of 2013, they opened Dad’s Diner at 906 Commercial.

Co-owners Neil Stuchal and Fletcher McLean. PHOTO BY BRENT COLE

Co-owners Neil Stuchal and Fletcher McLean. PHOTO BY BRENT COLE

The diner features a larger menu than the food truck, including all kinds of breakfast and lunch items – BBQ, ham and egg breakfast sandwich, pancakes, tacos and more. All the menu items focus on fresh and simple, and are listed on a large chalkboard.

“Our motto is we do everything we can not to open a can,” Fletcher said.

Neil added, “We try to look at the dynamics of the food. Sometimes, simple is the best way to go. There’s been a lot learned in the food world. It’s all based off of the really traditional comfort food.”

They use local purveyors when possible, including Hedlin Family Farms, Nerka Seafood, Willowood Farm, Slough Foods, Breadfarm, Taylor Shellfish and the Trainwreck Bar & Grill, among others.

The food is fantastic at both the truck and the diner. With Neil’s expertise and Fletcher’s pallet (he grew up in Florida with family in Georgia and North Carolina) the two have created a taste that draws people in from all over the Northwest. One of the crowd favorites is that Dad’s offers two different styles of pulled pork – one with the traditional southern vinegar based BBQ that is “more revealing of the flavor of the pork and smoke,” according to Fletcher, while also having a Memphis style, tomato based sauce.

While the truck and diner are both successful, it hasn’t been an easy road. In December, just days before Christmas, their investor suddenly disappeared, leaving Neil and Fletcher with a lease on a new restaurant space, supplies and no money to pay for it.

“Word got out and within 72 hours of us asking one person for money we had all the money through private individuals,” said Fletcher, including one person who came to the trailer and gave them $2,000, saying if she didn’t get it back, it would be OK. That night, Fletcher and his daughter sat and watched the classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the first time.

“It was that kind of a moment,” he said, “people gave us a shot.” The amount given, Fletcher added, wasn’t “small beans.”

It’s this type of support that has been vital to Dad’s Diner’s success, according to Neil. “We had a lot of people that were behind us from the start. Helped us through the winter months. A big part of our success is that there were a lot of people backing us in the beginning.”

Fletcher added, “There’s a very generous spirit in the Northwest that no one can deny, a love of community.”

Reflecting on the last few years, Fletched added, “We’re truly overwhelmed and humbled.”

Dad’s Diner is located at 906 Commercial Avenue in Anacortes and can be reached at (360) 899-5269. The menu is written on a large chalkboard, surrounded by framed photos of dads.

Published in the June 2014 issue of Grow Northwest

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One Comment to “Dad’s Diner a must-go”

  1. sue barr says:

    Congrats on your success. I truly hope to visit Dad’s. Miss you and Angela

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